On the Job

Duped By a New Job Offer?

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, September 28, 2007; 9:00 AM

Many workers enticed to leave their current jobs, do so in hopes of making a better career move. And when an offer has been made, the terms of employment are often spelled out in the hiring letter.

But when those terms that lured you in haven't been met within a reasonable amount of time, what can you do?

That's what this disappointed worker wants to know:

I accepted an offer with a company because I was told that they would sponsor me for a top secret security clearance. The contingency was in my offer letter. Nearly a year later, my paperwork has not been submitted and my supervisor will not respond to my inquiries. He told me he'd look into it, but never got back to me.

After further investigation, I found out that several other employees were expecting clearances, but their paperwork had also not been submitted.

To compound my disappointment, I'd been offered another job at the same time I decided to take this one that offered $5,000 more and a secret clearance. I chose this company instead because the prospect of a top secret clearance was a better long-term investment.

With that said, do I have any legal recourse?

Unless the offer letter clearly stated that "if the worker were to get the clearance, she'd have a job on some permanent basis and could only be fired for just cause," says Diane Seltzer, a Washington-based employment attorney, she likely has no legal recourse.

While the employee may have thought she was promised a top secret clearance, she must remember that her organization can only forward the application to the government for review, Seltzer adds. It doesn't have the authority to grant a security clearance on its own.

Considering how long this matter has gone unanswered, Seltzer advises that it might be time for the worker to reevaluate her future with the company. Some things to consider are whether or not the current position, sans the security clearance, is still acceptable or if she feels wronged enough to start up a new job search and, ultimately, leave.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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